Shooter

Being a big fan of anything that involves snipers – movies, video games, books, etc – I am surprised that I haven’t heard anything at all about “Shooter“.  It is one of those niche things that is done for the fans only.

The story is not particularly thick or twisted.  On the contrary, it’s quite straightforward and predictable.  But that didn’t spoil the film too much.  It was shot nicely, with some really nice photography.  And the casting was excellent – Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover, Rade Serbedzija, Rhona Mitra, and the rest did their job very well.

Overall, there is not much too say more.  If you are a fan of snipers, this movie is a must see.  If not, then I don’t know – it’s a nice action movie based on a rather weak story.  4 out of 5.

Beneath Hill 60

I don’t remember how I came across “Beneath Hill 60“, but it was in my watch queue for quite a while.  Yesterday I finally decided to watch it, and now I’m glad I did.  One of the first things that stands out is that it’s not an American movie (it’s Australian).  Even though the main language is English, the story telling, camera angles, special effects, and intensity are all approached differently.

The film tells the story of the Battle of Hill 60 from the First World War.  I haven’t heard anything about the battle before watching the film, and I’ve never thought of the role miners played at war.  In fact, I wasn’t aware they were ever used for military operations, even though not that I think about it – it makes all the sense.

This movie is not a major blockbuster by any means.  But it has a story to tell and it has a soul.  It feels like it was important to people who were making it.  And so, even if you aren’t that much into war movies, it will still be worth your time.

Overall ranking, a 4 out of 5.  Well done.

The Practice

I have just finished watching all eight seasons of “The Practice“.  Getting through all of it took me longer than usual, but I still did.

The way I watch TV series is pretty much the way I watch movies and read books – from cover to cover and, hopefully, in one go.  If I want to watch a single episode, chances are I will watch the whole season.  If I want to watch a season, I will probably watch all available seasons.  I don’t know why I am like that and that’s not really important right now.

What’s important is that I found out about “The Practice” after watching all “Boston Legal” and wanting more.  There were no more, but there was “The Practice”, which was pretty much a prequel to “Boston Legal”.  It was created by the same David Kelley and even featured some of the same characters.  The character that I was the most interested in – Alan Shore – was introduced in the last, eighth season of “The Practice”, and initially I wanted to see just that season.  But how could I?  What if I miss something? What if there is more to be had?  I just had to watch all eight seasons.

I can’t say that I regret it.  “The Practice” is a very good TV series.  There is everything I want from my TV – entertainment, interesting stories, good acting, humor, drama, and characters I can associate with.  “The Practice” offers all of that and more.  But it wasn’t until I actually got to season eight, not until Alan Shore (played by the excellent James Spader), that I recognized why it took me only a few days to watch “Boston Legal”.

“The Practice”, as good as it is, takes itself a bit too serious.  There is a lot of realism and drama.  “Boston Legal” is a much lighter TV series.  There is more humor, it’s easier on the audience.  Both of the TV series provide plenty to think about.  But “Boston Legal” does it in a more suggestive way, while “The Practice” pretty much slams you with an idea and demands you make up your mind about it before the episode is over.

Overall, as I said, it is still a very good TV series.  If you like good quality TV, that’s something to watch.  Especially if you enjoy legal context to your stories.  But if you really enjoyed the lighthearted way of the “Boston Legal”, than I suggest you just watch the last, eighth season of “The Practice”.  It is very similar to “Boston Legal”.  Prior seasons are very different.

Rating? I’ll give it a solid 4 out of 5.

Rango

Just return from the cinema where watched “Rango“, a cartoon that I’ve been waiting for a bit after seeing the trailer.  I have to say that trailers for this animation are slightly better than the final result, but not by too much.  It is a rather brave take on westerns with way more blackness and drama than most other kid’s animations allow.

It was a bit slow at places, and for Maxim’s taste there was a bit too much talk, but the story was good, the characters were interesting, and the whole feel to it was … unfamiliar.  If it was a movie, it would probably be one of many.  But being an animation, it stand on its own.

Music deserves a special attention.  There was as much of it as you could squeeze into a film without making it into a musicale.  It helped with atmosphere, entertainment, and more.  It changed from Mexican el mariachi to classical orchestra and back.  It faded from background to foreground and back.  And it was by my movie measures exceptional.

Overall, I’d rate the animation as 4 out of 5.  Recommended for adults and for older kids mostly, but anyone would probably enjoy it.

P.S.: If you are watching it in K-Cineplex Limassol, make sure to pick up your portion of nachos with cheese sauce at the cafeteria, which are a special served for this movie only.  Helps with the whole Mexican atmosphere, and they are indeed yummy.

The Fighter

The other day I watched “The Fighter” – a sports drama based on the life and career of the boxer Micky Ward.  As with most other sport dramas, the main course of the story is known and predictable.  Those movies are not done, watched, and enjoyed for their twisted plots.  Instead, they are all about people and specific circumstances.  And this film is not an exception.

To be honest, I’ve never heard about Micky Ward before this film.  So it was interesting for me to discover who he is and how he came up to be what he is.  It was also interesting to see a rather realistic approach to the story – less glamor, hot chicks, and big fights and more of hard work, sweat, personal drama, and overall resistance.   The film helps to illustrate the idea that champion is 1% of talent and 99% of hard work.  It also shows how impossible it is to satisfy everyone and how that often leads one to very hard choices, and how those choices have to be made.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film.  Interesting characters, good acting, and authentic cinematics all make this film so much better.  A 4 out of 5 from me.  Recommended.

Megamind

Maxim and I went to the cinema yesterday, in hopes to see “Tangled”.  But unfortunately it was in Greek only.  We checked both Rio and K-Cineplex cinemas.  Since we were out anyway, we decided to go for “Megamind“.  Which, despite the 3D advertising, was in 2D.  (Maxim prefers 3D, while I am a 2D man).

“Megamind” is a cartoon about superheros and about the fight of good an evil.  It is somewhat original in the story though.  While most other stories accept the fight between the good and evil and spend most of the time on the details, “Megamind” takes a different route.  It explores the world after the fight of good and evil.  And not just that, but the world where evil won the fight.  I thought it was an interesting twist, even though it required slightly more talking than usual.  And, as every kid knows, talking is boring.  Bring on the fight!

The story is well balanced though.  Surprisingly, there is still plenty of fighting and other types of action.   Bonus points from me are for having a geek (wearing geeky t-shirts) and for the soundtrack that included AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Guns-n-Roses.  I think that’s the first mainstream animation to ever do that.  Kudos!

And while this flick wasn’t a jewel that by now everyone expects from Dreamworks, it is still a pretty good entertainment choice.  Overall rating from me is a 4 out of 5.   Not bad.

Wild Hogs

Wild Hogs” is a fun adventure comedy about a few somewhat grown-up friends taking a road trip for the old times sake.  It’s a not a bad movie at all, but whether you’ll enjoy it or not depends a lot on your mood.  Gladly, I was in the mood for some light entertainment.  And I had a blast.   While there are a few places which are slow or silly, there are enough of those that made me laugh out loud. Overall it was worth it.

4 out of 5 from me and a solid recommendation for Friday evening entertainment.

The Social Network

The Social Network” is a movie about Facebook.  There’s been a lot of hype about it, since that’s pretty much the first mainstream movie about the modern Internet and the social networking.  And Facebook having half a billion registered users doesn’t sound like geek-only territory anymore.  But on top of that, what added plenty to the hype was that the film is not a documentary.  There is plenty of fiction in it.  Not in the sense that things didn’t happen, but in the sense that they didn’t happen exactly as shown, and they weren’t as important as shown.  Have a look at this Wikipedia page for more on that.

I was interested in seeing this movie for a number of reasons.  First of all, I am much involved with social networking and the modern Web.  And even though I don’t find Facebook particularly interesting for my personal needs, I do consider it to be paramount for the current state of the Internet.  Secondly, I wanted to see how the filmmakers will balance the geeky nature of the story.   And thirdly I wanted to see if I could disconnect from my technical bias and see this film as pure entertainment, without passing judgement to its authenticity.

So, here’s what I think about it.  I was able to see at as a “normal person”.  The film is not very technical, and it not being too accurate historically, I really didn’t have any other option.  It’s similar to how “Inglorious Bastards” are not a historical World War II movie.  So I had no problem with it.

The film is entertaining.  I think the character of Jesse Eisenberg who played the found of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was interesting.  I was surprised as to how many technical details were allowed in a mainstream movie – Perl programming, web scrapping, security concerns over Apache directory listings, etc.  And yet, how all these technical tidbits were not at all important for the film.  I knew what they were talking about it, but I could in a very similar way had no clue and it wouldn’t have affected my perception of the film.

But even though the film was interesting and entertaining and wasn’t a waste of time by any means, I am still disappointed.  I think that there is a lot of cool stuff going on with and at Facebook.  I think there are plenty of cool people in and around it.  And I think that the real history of Facebook creation or milestone episodes of that history would have made a way better film.  It doesn’t have to be less entertaining, but it does have to be more accurate.  After all, it does have half a billion of registered users. After all, it is one of the most successful business on the Internet. After all, it is a social phenomena.  And I think that makes the history of Facebook and people who are involved with it very interesting.

I won’t however allow my personal wishes for this movie to interferer with what this movie is.  And what it is a good entertainment bit.  My rating overall – a 4 out of 5.

From Paris with Love

From Paris with Love” is a fast-paced action comedy with John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  I found this movie by accident, but I quite enjoyed it.  So much in fact, that I watched it twice in the last month or so.  Sure, it has a few weird romantic moments that needed more polish, but all of those are nicely compensated by action, humor, and an explosive, brutal, yet humane character of John Travolta.  It’s John Travolta at his best.  The one I missed for a long time now, since “Pulp Fiction”, “Be Cool”, and “Michael”.

Remember all those James Bond movies with Sean Connery?  And then how all the charm was taken out of Agent 007 by Daniel Craig?  Well, this movie is a variation on a modern James Bond (an American, of course, but still in Europe), with plenty of charm, and yet with enough brutality of Daniel Craig.  Without Daniel Craig.  (Not that I have anything against Daniel Craig outside of James Bond role).

There is not much else that I can say about it.  Not your regular family entertainment, but a bunch of guys could have a blast with it over a pint of beer.  My rating – 4 out of 5.

The American

I watched “The American” yesterday.  It’s a rather slow developing drama of an aging assassin, who starts to get lonely, questions his life choices, and wants to quit his trade.  And as in so many other stories, that’s not so easy to do.  And as with so many other stories, women are usually involved.

It’s a nice story.  Not a bad movie.  Some solid acting.  And lots and lots of silence, which makes sense.  It is somewhat slow, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Yet, it is that kind of movie which is difficult to recommend.  Because people usually expect so many different things from an assassin drama.  And I’m not sure this will satisfy many.  It did satisfy me though.

Two things in particular that I liked were the use of Italian language and scenery.  Multi-lingual films are a challenge.  If there are two many languages or too much of two languages, subtitles are needed, and they usually annoy the audience.  Shooting a movie in English, when clearly other languages are involved often seems naive and childish.  So the choices are hard and making a movie with two or more languages involved is not that easy.  This film succeeded though.  It managed to bring the feeling of Italy, the atmosphere, and the language without using too much of it.  Subtitles are helpful, but not required – most of what is said in Italian are short phrases, the smalltalk.   Yet, combined with the scenery of small Italian towns that brings a very realistic feeling.  The place is unmistakable.

Overall, a 4 out of 5.